The Winnipeg Jets will boast a slightly different looking lineup when they face off against the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday in the second of two-straight games at Bell MTS Place between the North Division’s two top teams.
Despite giving up three goals on six shots in a game in which Connor Hellebuyck felt he “shouldn’t have been pulled,” the Jets will turn back to their Vezina-winning netminder on Saturday evening, just two days removed from the tough first period showing that saw Toronto pounce with three quick goals.
“It was a 3-2 game, and I don’t think I should have been pulled. That’s as far as I’ll go on that,” Hellebuyck said on Friday. “I don’t think they were bad goals last night. Do I want some of them? Of course. You look at my entire career, I want a lot of those goals back. All I can do today is learn from it, get better and be better for tomorrow.”
Although Hellebuyck will be back between the pipes, the same cannot be said of centreman Adam Lowry, who did not skate with the team on Friday or Saturday following a high hit that forced him out of Thursday’s game.
“He doesn’t have a concussion diagnosis, yet,” head coach Paul Maurice said of Lowry on Saturday morning. “So he’s gone through his tests, but we’re going to be precautionary with him. He won’t play tonight and we’ll list him as day-to-day.”
With Lowry coming out of the lineup, Andrew Copp will shift over to centre, much like what he did on Thursday, while Mathieu Perreault will earn a bump up to the third line alongside Copp and Mason Appleton. Jansen Harkins will draw back into the lineup on the team’s fourth line with Trevor Lewis and Nate Thompson.
“It’s the best league in the world and you kind of get thrust into it,” Harkins said. “You’ve got to just try to go out there and keep it simple and try to make quick, fast plays. I mean, my game is definitely, I feel like it’s coming around. Not like I was ever off before, it’s just kind of getting up to pace and making the most of what you’re given, and for me it’s just trying to prove that every shift and just trying to earn my ice.”
On the back-end, newcomer Jordie Benn will be removed from the six-man unit for Saturday’s game, while Logan Stanley will come back in. Ville Heinola has been sent down to the American Hockey League, where he will get some game action with the Manitoba Moose.
Defenceman Ville Heinola is expected to play this afternoon for the #MBMoose against the visiting Stockton Heat.
Logan Stanley and Jansen Harkins draw in for the #NHLJets.
Adam Lowry (injured) and Jordie Benn (scratched) are out.
Connor Hellebuyck starts.
Puck drop: 6:08 PM.
— Carter Brooks (@CBrooksie84) April 24, 2021
Coach Maurice touched on his decision to change up the defence, making reference to the factor of losing a ‘big man’ in Lowry and replacing him with Stanley.
“We took a big man out of our lineup in Adam Lowry, so it makes sense that we put another big man in,” Maurice said Saturday. “Want to get Jordie some practice time as well. I don’t want any of these guys out of hockey games for a long period of time until I get real comfortable in the direction we’re going to go.”
Interestingly though, it’s not all about size for Coach Mo, but rather skillsets and the combination of certain defence pairs that played into his decision.
“If we had 20 elite three-foot players, they’d all be in the lineup tonight,” he said candidly. “If we had 20 terrible seven-foot players, none of them would play. Size has nothing to do with anything. It’s all about effectiveness. When I say I took a big man out and put a big man in, we’ve got some penalty killing things we’re going to want to look at. I do think that Stanley and DeMelo have played some really strong games for us. We will play Josh Morrissey and Neal Pionk against big men. We will also play Forbort and Stanley against small men. It’s having a balance and having options.”
Puck drop is set for 6:08 PM central and the game can be viewed live on CBC.